Vent mount for your iPhone


Last week I reviewed the New Navigon Turn-by-Turn Navigation App for iPhone. During that review I didn’t have a mount for my iPhone in my car. I knew what kind of mount I would want and therefore I ordered it from Amazon. 

Here’s a short video on how the Arkon IPM129-ST Removable Air Vent Mount works.



The Bottom Line

If you need to mount your iPhone in your car and you don’t have round vents (like on the Mustang), this mount works great. It ranges from $8-$12 on Amazon and you can order it here.


iPhone App of the Week – Navigon MobileNavigator North America


When the iPhone OS 3.0 update was introduced, Apple opened the door to 3rd party turn-by-turn apps. They brought TomTom up on stage to show off the app that they were working on. I was impressed by what I saw and thought that this might be a chance to carry one less device when I travel. I'm very fond of my Garmin Nuvi 765T and the chances of a Garmin App for the iPhone are slim. It seems that Garmin would rather compete with a phone of their own (Garmin, look at the Palm Pre. You guys just don't stand a chance against iPhone and Blackberry). So an iPhone app would have to be really killer to make me give up my Nuvi. I'm also a fan of Navigon GPS units too. Actually it's not so much about their hardware that I'm impressed by as much as it is their software. I fell in love with the Navigon 3D Reality View, which pops up a photo realistic image of the road signs you're going to go under so that you're in the right lane. Not long after the TomTom announcement was made, Navigon announced that they would have an iPhone app too!


It's a race!

In many cases first to market can definitely get you a leg up on your competition. If you have a really good app, then it makes it that much harder for your competitor. It's pretty clear that Navigon wanted to be first. Why you ask? Two reasons: for one they are offering their app for an introductory price of $69.99 until August 15th. Then the price goes up to $99.00. This of course creates a sense of urgency. The second reason is that they state right on their App Store page that a free update is coming with additional features. I would argue that a few of those features should have been in the first release. What was the hurry? Oh yeah, right. That whole get it out first thing. I remember now.

Continue reading “iPhone App of the Week – Navigon MobileNavigator North America”

Kensington LiquidAux in-car iPod solution: Review

Ever since I got the first iPod, I’ve been interested in having iPod integration in my car. With my newer car it’s easy. I open the little compartment under the arm rest and son of a gun there’s an iPod 30 pin cable just sitting there. I plug in my iPod, close the compartment and control everything from the in dash stereo and steering wheel controls. Apple has done a great job getting car manufacturers to offer iPod and now iPhone integration as factory options. This is great if you have a late model car or you’re in the market for a new car. However, what if you have an older car or a newer car that doesn’t offer an integrated iPod solution?

Do you have an auxiliary-in jack?

Most late model cars were starting to offer auxiliary-in jacks before they were offering iPod integration. My older car fits this category. There is no iPod connector available for this car. However, there is an AUX-in jack right in the glove compartment. As a matter of fact even the car I had before that one had the same thing and I went a full year without even knowing it was in there. The day I discovered it I almost passed out.

Having an AUX-in is half the battle! This means that at least your car stereo can accept a source other than what’s built-in. You could just simply connect a cable between your iPod or iPhone’s headphone jack and your AUX-in jack and play your music. If that’s all you want, then you can stop reading here and have a nice day. However, that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted a little more control than having to reach for the iPod to change tracks and playlists AND I wanted to be able to charge it too. Since my AUX-in jack is in my glove compartment, that presents an even more challenging scenario with cable management. I don’t want to drive around with cables coming out of the side of the glove compartment door. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to see any cables at all!

Getting Power!

The first thing I knew that I was going to have to do to be happy was to have a cigarette lighter adapter installed right in my glove compartment. This way I could plug in a charger for the iPod and close the door. Don’t even think of going to dealer with this non-standard request or they will just look at you funny. The good thing is that now many new cars that have AUX-in are doing it under the arm rest and they’re putting a “power port” there too! In my case I wasn’t that lucky. So I went to my local car stereo shop and had them install one for me. They still looked at me strange, but they did it. So now I have AUX-in and Power right next to each other.



Having power and sound isn’t enough. I don’t want to have to reach across the car every time I want to change a song or pause it. There were all kinds of remote controls out for the iPod when I first started looking at this problem, but almost all of them required line-of-sight. Keep in mind this thing was going to be behind a closed door. I wanted something with RF or Bluetooth. When I first started with this problem I solved it with two things. I used a Griffin Techologies AirClick remote for my iPod mini and a Belkin iPod Charger that also offered line out audio. This solution has worked for me for the last 4 years. There’s just one problem. My iPod mini finally died! “It’s dead Jim!” I know, just get a new iPod right? I’ve even got older iPods just lying around. However, the problem is that the AirClick Remote model that I have (which isn’t even made anymore) only fits the iPod mini. Sure I can probably go to eBay and get another mini, but this problem is going to continue as mini’s just continue to get older and older. So I needed a new solution!

Kensington LiquidAux


My buddy Jack Beckman turned me on to the Kensington LiquidAux. I didn’t need it at the time he told me about it, but I bookmarked it because I knew that the iPod mini would eventually die someday. Well someday came sooner than I thought it would. The LiquidAux me everything I need in one package. The LiquidAux plugs into the dock connector of any dockable iPod including the latest and greatest iPods and iPhones. The other end of the cable is both Power and Line Out! Lastly it comes with an RF remote. It’s like they were anticipating my needs and designed a product to do exactly what I needed.

How well does it work?


The LiquidAux does exactly what it claims to do. It allows me to charge and control my iPod from my steering wheel while pumping the jams through my car stereo. Now of course there are a couple of caveats. The first one is that you have to choose the playlist on the iPod itself. The remote for the LiquidAux only does Play/Pause, Previous Song, Next Song and Shuffle.  Once you choose the playlist on the iPod, you don’t have to touch the iPod again unless you want to change the playlist again. If you hold down the Play/Pause button on the remote it will put the iPod to sleep. They also built-in a nice feature that senses when the iPod is fullly charged and then turns off the charger. This can help prevent a dead car battery if your cigarette lighter is constantly powered even when the car is off. The only other issue (actually two issues) revolves around sound level and engine interference. With my old Belkin Charger there was a volume control for the line level right on the charger itself. So I had it turned all the way up and the sound level coming from the iPod was great. The LiquidAux has no such control so the sound volume was much lower than I expected. Sure you can simply turn up your car stereo, which I did and that leads me to the other issue. With my old solution I could hear a distinct “hum” between tracks and while the iPod was paused. This hum drove me nuts at first. I solved it by getting a Ground Loop Isolator (don’t ask me how I knew that’s what I needed) from Radio Shack. Plugged it in between the iPod and the AUX-in jack (using the appropriate RCA to mini adapter cables) and problem solved. Because I have to turn the stereo volume up so much with the LiquidAux, I can hear a similar hum. So I plugged in the Ground Loop Isolator and it took care of the issue once again. I’m back in business with a New (actually refurbished) 4th generation iPod nano.

No Integrated iPod support OR AUX-in jack?

If your car doesn’t have either an integrated iPod connector or an AUX-in jack, then your choices are going to be very limited. If you have a cassette deck, then you could go with a cassette adapter that offers a line in cable. If you don’t have a cassette deck either, then your only other choice is going to be an FM transmitter. In my opinion FM transmitters in general SUCK! I haven’t seen one yet, that I would want to have to use on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, I’d get a new stereo put in that did have an AUX-in or iPod connection first before having to deal with an FM transmitter on a daily basis. I dislike them that much!

The Bottom Line


If you have an iPod or iPhone (either the original or iPhone 3g) and your car has an AUX-in jack this is about the only thing out there that does it all. They make two models. I bought the basic model because I didn’t need the iPod/iPhone holder since mine is stuffed neatly (or not so neatly) away in my glove compartment. The Kensington LiquidAux goes for $43.78. The Kensington LiquidAux Deluxe goes for $57.45.

Of course the other option is to just buy a new car with built-in iPod support! The auto industry would really appreciate that right about now.

Garmin Nüvi GPS Vent Mount


If I rent a car while traveling, them I’m going to be using my Garmin Nüvi 765t GPS. I’ve never been a fan of suction cup mounts because they just simply don’t work well for me. I had moved to a bean bag style (friction) mount which works great. However, it’s not very small and when I’m traveling every bit of space counts as I hate checking my bags. When I bought my Nüvi 765t, I noticed a very small mount that actually clips right on to the AC vent of your car. I bought one of these on eBay and used it on a personal trip last month to Wisconsin. I don’t even remember what kind of car I had on that trip, but the mount worked PERFECTLY. 


It puts the GPS in the perfect spot


Although it’s nice to have the GPS at eye level on the window or dashboard, it does mean that technically part of your view is being blocked. However, having the GPS mounted just below the dash on the vent, is ideal. I’ve seen cup holder mounts and while they seem to be out of the way, I think I would find that position just to low depending on where the cup holder is in the car.


The size of this mount is also perfect. So small that it would easily fit in a jacket pocket. The price is also right at about $5. I don’t know what other GPS systems this will work with, but if you have a Garmin GPS, then you should really check out this mount.

The Garmin Nuvi 765T GPS Review

I’ve been a longtime fan of Garmin Nuvi’s. However, lately I’ve been carrying my much lower priced Navigon 2100 with me when I travel. Why would I carry a less feature rich device you ask? It’s actually quite simple. Although I love just about everything about the Garmin Nuvi, the one thing I fell in love with on the Navigon is something they call "3D Reality View." It seems that whenever I’m in an unfamiliar area (which is why I’d be using my GPS in the first place), I would always be in the wrong lane. This would either cause me to miss my exit or exit too soon. On the Navigon 2100 whenever I approached a complex highway exchange, the Navigon would throw up photo realistic highway signs that displayed the exact text that was on the real signs with markers for the lane you’re supposed to be in. Once I drove around California with this feature I was hooked! Recently Garmin sent out a survey and I answered the survey about what I liked about the Nuvi and what I wished were better. The one feature I wanted was this form of "lane assist" and the next thing I knew, it was here! I happened to notice an ad for the Garmin Nuvi 755T, 765T, 775T and 785T and all of these units include a feature called "lane assist." Had I just seen that in text, I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention to it. However, it was the screen shot that got me!:


Next it was simply just a matter of deciding which of the four models I wanted. This was the one feature that was keeping me from using my existing Garmin and using a lesser model. Don’t get me wrong, the Navigon 2100 is a great GPS for the money (it’s my most frequently read review with well over 110,000 reads)! However, the Garmin Nuvi offers so much more and as well it should since it also costs 3-5 times more. I ran a comparison of these four models to see which one was right me. I immediately eliminated the 755T because I wanted Bluetooth. Garmin Nuvi’s with Bluetooth allow you to also use it as a handsfree speaker phone while you’re driving. Since I use my portable GPS mostly in rental cars, this feature is a big plus. The 775T seems to come with maps of Europe and the 785T comes with MSN support. Neither of these two features were important to me nor did they justify the huge difference in price. So it was the 765T for me! 


Speaking of price

Don’t let Garmin’s retail prices scare you! Nobody would pay these prices! The Garmin Nuvi 765T lists for $599.99 or Garmin’s site. There’s NO WAY I would pay that much for a GPS these days. I started doing some price shopping. Unfortunately I wasn’t seeing the 765T for much under $435 (still much better than retail). I was all set to ask for gift cards for the holidays and I would pool them together to get one. Then it happened! I was looking at a couple of days before Thanksgiving and it was there for only $349! I was stunned! Was this a mistake? I paused for a minute, and then I went for it. The next day after I ordered it, it went back up to the regular price of $435. Prices do fluctuate on all the time. So keep a watch on it. Although it was sold through Amazon, it was actually Car Toys that delivered it. I see right now that their price is a little cheaper right on the Amazon page (on the right side of the page). 


Taking it for a spin


I couldn’t wait to put it to the test. So although I was home and have a GPS built-in to my car, I put the Nuvi 765T on my dash board and ran some errands. It was GREAT! It was fast and responsive. Plotting good routes (all GPSes plot wacky routes at times). Then I came up on an intersection and BAM! There it was, a beautiful photo illustrating which lane I should be in. Although this was it! This was the feature I’d been waiting for Garmin to release, there is still room for improvement. My only issue with the 3D view is that it simply doesn’t stay up long enough. If you’re concentrating on the road, you could actually miss the display when it pops up. It seems to stay up much longer on the Navigon. It’s not the end of the world and it’s something easily fixed via firmware update. So Garmin, if you’re reading this, let’s get this display to stay up a few seconds longer. I also noticed that the Nuvi 765T now displays the current speed limit of the road you’re on. Another cool feature of the Navigon. However, it seems that all the 765T does is display the speed limit whereas my Navigon actually has a programmable warning if you exceed the limit by a set amount. I went 15 MPH over the limit on the Nuvi and not a peep.



True Lane Assist


In addition to the 3D photo that pops up to show you which lane you should be in, the 765T also displays another form of Lane Assist in the upper left corner, which shows you which of the lanes you should/could be in. For example if you’re approaching a 4 lane pass, you may only be able to take the upcoming exit if you’re in one of the two far left lanes. This feature will highlight the lanes you can be in and still make the exit. I like this feature A LOT! 


Why am I back to the Nuvi?

You might be asking at this point, if the Navigon that I already owned had the most important feature to me, why would I spend more money on another Garmin Nuvi? That’s a valid question and here’s the answer. While the Navigon had the one feature that I really loved, the Nuvi had everything else! The Nuvi is more than just a GPS. It’s also a media player, language translator, audiobook player, etc. Sure I have most of these features in my iPhone, but it’s nice having all this in my GPS because it also sports an FM transmitter built-in. This way I can have all of this sound play over the car speakers. The Navigon 2100 has none of this. While these features are nice-to-haves, the most important thing that sets the Nuvi 765T apart is performance and UI. The Navigon units can be sluggish to operate at times. They also have small text that is hard to read depending upon your eyes. The Garmin units use nice big icons and respond almost instantaneously to the touch. Another great feature of the Nuvi is the integration with my computer. With the Nuvi I can mount it on my desktop and drag files to it. I can also download custom points of interest (POI) files to it. I found a great site for getting custom POI files of your favorite stores, restaurants, etc. For example, I have all the PF Chang’s in my Garmin (probably not a good thing 🙂 ). No matter where I am, it will tell me where the closest one is. Same for Best Buy, Apple Stores, Morton Steak Houses, etc. etc. 


The Bottom Line

This is by far the best portable GPS I have owned to date. It’s not perfect, but it does offer the perfect blend of features, price and performance. It is very customizable and Garmin has free utilities for both the Mac and PC. Turn-by-turn voice navigation, fast responsive user interface. Several cool features and the new rubberized coating feels good to the touch. Mine came with the 2009 Map File already loaded and Garmin is pretty good about making timely updates available. If you’re looking for a top of the line, feature rich GPS, this is it!


Upgrade Your Garage Door Opener

How big is your garage door opener?

If you’re using the garage door opener that came with your unit, chances are it’s too big! Granted they have come down in size and the average is probably the size of a deck of cards. However, you can actually have one that is much much smaller! Luckily my cars have integrated openers built-in, however my daughter’s car does not. So rather than give her the original remote that came with the garage, I decided to find her a smaller one and one that could actually go on her keychain. 


My search lead me to this Liftmaster 970LM. Now of course I had to find one that was compatible with my existing system and as you would expect there is an online store called Click Away Remotes that sells all kinds of replacement remotes. I got mine through Amazon (which shipped from Click Away Remotes) at a lower price than buying direct. The remote works great and goes right on your keychain. This also provides an extra layer of security because you’re not leaving your remote in your car to be a temptation to thieves. If you’re currently leaving your remote in your car, you might want to reconsider that. In these tough times home invasions are on the rise. If a thief breaks into your car and figures out where you live, the remote would allow them easy access to your house (or at least the valuables in your garage). 

Setup was simple. I trained it using the original remote in less than 5 minutes. Great price, great solution!